Life Is Too Short

“The Internet can be a hard place to find kindness, maybe especially right now, but I believe it’s worth fighting for because I believe it makes the world bigger and that it eases the hard but inevitable changes that define life.”
John Green

It so happens that I am tired of the things that I’m against, and that are against me. This being-against has come to circumscribe my days and define my existence, ever since the putative election of the Idiot Toddler King five months ago.

The writer John Green refers to a “strange brew of outrage and worry and exhaustion and not being able to look away …” and says, “I feel some vague but nagging obligation to be informed about the events of the day.” I can relate. It feels like I’ve been sucking information from a firehose and that it’s my social obligation as a citizen to go on doing it, perhaps forever. I can’t look away.

trump-baldwinI don’t want this misery; this feeling of being subjected to hypnosis or mind control. The failing landlord has had rent free use of the space between my ears for far too long. I have given him and his minions power over my thinking. That’s the most precious thing I have and worst thing I can carelessly give away. Enough!

I no longer accept the moral obligation to be constantly informed about the minutia of the highest and most profoundly innervating horrors of insensate Power. It’s not my job as a citizen, or yours. If a few of the tens of millions of us who are chronically outraged remember that we still have finite lives and look away for a moment, Trump will not get away with all of his cunning and evil plans.

I want my field of vision back, and the spectrum of my hearing, and the depth of my understanding too. There are still beautiful books to read, and music to hear. There are more important things to think about than what steaming pile of crap The Clown Prince has stepped in today.

I’m not saying I want to stop being well-informed and caring about what’s going on. But being informed doesn’t mean staying lock-step with the nation every day. It’s easy to go way beyond being informed and become obsessed. The traditional news media and countless content sources on the Internet are in the business of obsession. They make a living, one way or another, by getting our attention and keeping it. They manufacture outrage.

I’ve heard there’s no truth in the news, no news in the truth. But even if what they’re feeding us is True, they don’t want us to be merely well informed and say that’s enough thanks, and glance away. The information machine is an all-you-can-eat buffet, an eternal flame raging in a dumpster. Nobody cares if you sit there, in rapt attention, until your background level of stress pegs off the meter.

The problem with living on a daily diet of outrage against the things that we’re against is not just that it ruins your health and happiness. It doesn’t do any good. It never has. No good change in the world has ever come about just because people – no matter how many – were against something and outraged about it. Every time people have succeeded in creating positive change, it’s been because they found something that were for and felt passionate about. They then stood up and fought for that thing and against whatever was trying to destroy it. There’s no use being against something without being for something, is my point.

Anne Lamott has famously written, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Being outraged against The Other Side always results in overblown, inaccurate stereotypes. If everybody over there is evil and stupid and incapable of rational discourse, there’s no hope at all of ever making progress toward solving common problems. We become part of the problem. Believe it or not, cooperation is never optional, and those stereotypes, at some level, are always wrong.

“Now, if you ask me, what’s going on is that we’re all up to here in it, and probably the most important thing is that we not yell at one another. Otherwise we’d all just be barking away like Pekingese: ‘Ah! Stuck in the shit! And it’s your fault, you did this …’ Writing involves seeing people suffer and, as Robert Stone once put it, finding some meaning therein. But you can’t do that if you’re not respectful. If you look at people and just see sloppy clothes or rich clothes, you’re going to get them wrong.”
– Lamott

I want kindness to prevail between us, I really do, but it’s going to take time.  If you voted Nazi Stupid in the 2016 election, don’t tell me. I still think you’re a raging fool who should not be trusted with scissors or the care of pets or houseplants. Even if you’ve repented and wish there had been an actual Conservative to vote for, just shut up and keep it to yourself for a while. You are the stereotype, the poster child for bad judgment. Sorry. Let’s find something else to talk about. Not NASCAR or Rodeo. …Movies?

Of course, I still despise Donald Trump. He’s batshit crazy and evil, corrupt, and probably a traitor. But our job as citizens is not just to consume and react, consume and react. It’s to thoughtfully receive information, decide what values we are willing to stand for, and then find a way to stand up for them.

It’s time to cut back on the news. So how often is often enough to check in? Every 10 minutes, every hour, day, or week? Well for me it’s going to be a quick daily dose online. Then I have a couple of nice weekly magazines, TIME and The Nation. I’ll still be outraged but less viscerally so, I hope. If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been listening.

God Save The Queen

… from Donald Trump.

I know that some of my readers live in the UK. I cordially invite you to join more than one million of your countrymen and women, in signing a petition to ban the ostensible president of my country from being received in your country for an official state visit.

Here’s a link.

Trump is a vile, vapid, vulgar little tyrant whose putrid character is utterly devoid of any redeeming qualities. His personality has all the taste and discernment of a small lump of molding cheddar.What’s more, he’s simply a mad dictator who, if he’s not stopped soon, will rain sorrow and suffering, hate and discontent, on people here in the US and far abroad.

So feel free to tell him, “none shall pass,” and trust me that no right-minded American will take the slightest offense.

Cheers!

Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong – these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.

~ Winston Churchill

Our Better Angels

When I walked into my kitchen this morning, a disembodied computer voice roused itself and said to me:

“Good morning, Kyle. Today is Barack Obama’s last day as President of the United States. He is the 44th president and the first African American elected to that office. Thank you, Mr. President.”

I felt at once sad and grateful, angry, nauseated, and infected by despair. “Yes, thank you and thank you,” I thought, “but my God what have we done?”

This evening I wrote a blog post about my apprehension and my thoughts on citizenship, and posted that on another website. You can read it here, if you’re so inclined.

Here on Metaphor, I’ll just say that by my clock it’s after midnight in Washington DC; it is January 20, 2017. Thank you, Mr. Obama, and your wife and family, for your service and sacrifice offered with surpassing poise and manifest in good faith.

God bless and save America.

 

Resolution of the City of San Francisco

It makes me proud to be a Californian. [Link]

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution, introduced by Board President London Breed, in response to the election of Donald Trump. The resolution reads as follows:

 

WHEREAS, On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected to become the 45th President of the United States; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That no matter the threats made by President-elect Trump, San Francisco will remain a Sanctuary City. We will not turn our back on the men and women from other countries who help make this city great, and who represent over one third of our population. This is the Golden Gate—we build bridges, not walls; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we will never back down on women’s rights, whether in healthcare, the workplace, or any other area threatened by a man who treats women as obstacles to be demeaned or objects to be assaulted. And just as important, we will ensure our young girls grow up with role models who show them they can be or do anything; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That there will be no conversion therapy, no withdrawal of rights in San Francisco. We began hosting gay weddings twelve years ago, and we are not stopping now. And to all the LGBTQ people all over the country who feel scared, bullied, or alone: You matter. You are seen; you are loved; and San Francisco will never stop fighting for you; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we still believe in this nation’s founding principle of religious freedom. We do not ban people for their faith. And the only lists we keep are on invitations to come pray together; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That Black Lives Matter in San Francisco, even if they may not in the White House. And guided by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, we will continue reforming our police department and rebuilding trust between police and communities of color so all citizens feel safe in their neighborhoods; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That climate change is not a hoax, or a plot by the Chinese. In this city, surrounded by water on three sides, science matters. And we will continue our work on CleanPower, Zero Waste, and everything else we are doing to protect future generations; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we have been providing universal health care in this city for nearly a decade, and if the new administration follows through on its callous promise to revoke health insurance from 20 million people, San Franciscans will be protected; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we are the birthplace of the United Nations, a city made stronger by the thousands of international visitors we welcome every day. We will remain committed to internationalism and to our friends and allies around the world—whether the administration in Washington is or not; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That San Francisco will remain a Transit First city and will continue building Muni and BART systems we can all rely upon, whether this administration follows through on its platform to eliminate federal transit funding or not; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That California is the sixth largest economy in the world. The Bay Area is the innovation capital of the country. We will not be bullied by threats to revoke our federal funding, nor will we sacrifice our values or members of our community for your dollar; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That we condemn all hate crimes and hate speech perpetrated in this election’s wake. That although the United States will soon have a President who has demonstrated a lack of respect for the values we hold in the highest regard in San Francisco, it cannot change who we are, and it will never change our values. We argue, we campaign, we debate vigorously within San Francisco, but on these points we are 100 percent united. We will fight discrimination and recklessness in all its forms. We are one City. And we will move forward together.

Freeze-dried America

It’s cold in America tonight. It rained briefly here in Santa Barbara today and the clear air behind the little front of wet is pressing on the house. But in America it is more than literally cold. Our hemisphere is blandly tilting away from the sun’s equinoctial rays, but that’s just what it does this time of year, even in times of hope and clarity. The nights are long and clear and the road to anywhere that matters, where hope and consolation can be found, seems longer than it did in October. Or is it me? I look around the Internet for the usual lights of insight and find dark windows…

Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery

No joke, serious; so much depression. Many of my favorite poets and writers, bloggers and vloggers – normally uplifted and uplifting people – have stopped generating content. Vlogger Chris Pirillo in Seattle says he hasn’t picked up his camera in weeks. Blogger and actor Wil Wheaton in Los Angeles is working the Kubler-Ross stages of grief like a tautological litany; a long day’s journal into an existential feedback loop.

America the Plum Blossoms are Falling

All through the social networks, there is so much anger. All of the cries of “no, wait, you can’t, he’s insane, he’ll destroy everything our parents built and ruin everything we might have left behind as well” are dying away like a long freight train that took 2 weeks to rumble to a stop. Now the anger is turning from Big Cheeto and the Fetus Funeral Kid to the townspeople who brought this lunacy down around our heads.

I’m experiencing the same kind of writer’s brain-lock by the way; it’s much worse than writer’s block. I can write but do you think I want to be writing this current events drivel? Do I seem to have the talent for it? Hell no. I’m a poet and a writer of the quiet ontological rooms at the back of the house. The dusty guest bedrooms, where the shoes in the closet belong to the beloved dead. I hate what’s happening in the consciousness of the country almost as much as what’s happening in the streets, the schools, and in the dooryards of the mosques and synagogues.

So I don’t blame the angry people; in fact, I have to join them. This wasn’t an election of a new president and vice president for these United States. This wasn’t a shift from liberal to conservative, from tax and spend to budgetary frugality (a myth, anyway). This was a fucking coup e’etat; a putsch. Our country has been illegally overthrown. Trump had help from foreign powers including Russia. And the Director of the FBI interfered with the election. So America the Beautiful has voted – by a margin so slim it raises the specter of  capital crimes- to become a much different nation than we were.

It’s one thing to want a new president for the country, it’s another to want a different country. And instead of a president, let’s let these crazyass racists who hate everybody run the shit. Nope, you can bring in a new pitcher but we’re not switching from baseball to Mayan basketball, where the losers get their heads chopped off. And come to think of it, Hillary won the damn election anyway. But I digress.

No. No. No! I will not accept the United States becoming a racist, fear-mongering land of knuckle-dragging simian celebrants of some misbegotten, pathetic Nazi cult of ignorance. I do not acquiesce; I demur. You don’t like it, bite me. I’ve lost all tolerance for fools. And I pity the next one I hear sneering about sour grapes and poor losers.

[Shit] Here, watch this excellent video and read an old poem. I’m running out of words, pitching a fit or a fever, and I need to make sure the lights of the coastline are still shining in the cold.

 

    “next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

– e e cummings

The Center of the Universe

And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

– Elie Wiesel
Acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize

The marginalized people of America are afraid, and for good reason.

I am reminded of a story my priest told me once, from Russia in the years before the revolution. In those days, it was common practice for people to travel to monasteries to celebrate feast days and ask advice from monks, especially from certain elders.

On one occasion, a group of people were taking turns speaking with an elder who was giving them advice on keeping the fast – Lent. One by one they went up and ask his blessing – Batyushka Blagoslave – Father, bless me – and he would bless them and help them and send them on their way. He might tell them certain vegetables to eat, or tea to drink, or maybe for health reasons absolve them to eat eggs or cheese on days when they wouldn’t otherwise.

Finally a man stepped up who was very rich and influential; a man who had spent his life amassing a fortune. He asked for a blessing and the old priest, being insightful and wise, took one look at him and said:

Oh you, I know you. Don’t bother keeping the fast; eat anything you want. Just for the love of God stop eating people.

The people on the margins of American society are afraid because they are the most vulnerable to the people-eating machine that our divided and hate-steeped culture has become. I speaking of the immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ, the disabled and sick and homeless, and the list goes on. They know they’re not alone, but it must still feel that way. They don’t know if anyone – the Congress, the Courts, the churches and their neighbors – will stand with them as the machine grinds on.

It is not morning in America anymore; it is dusk. But the lamps are lit and the streets still belong to us. It is for us, every woman and man of conscience, to stay awake and vigilant. And when we hear that grinding sound in the night, we have to go out, and bring our brothers and sisters into our homes. Let no one be left outside. I’m saying we must keep speaking out.

The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.
– Robert M. Pirsig

A Breach of Good Faith

I need to get this off my chest so I can move on. I need my clarity back, my peace of mind, my love for other humans and especially for my fellow Americans. I need to tell you what I think and I won’t mince words.

I am angry with many of you. I love you, I wish you no misfortune – though misfortune is certainly coming for you – but I’m pissed off.

This is not complicated and it’s not a matter of opinion. America is built on a set of simple principles; they’re not all that unique, either. Every American has a moral duty to protect these rights and values, because our people have died to secure and protect them for us.

Liberty and Justice for All

This is in our Pledge of Allegiance. Not liberty and justice for me, and my fellow white males; for all. Everybody, no exceptions. Muslim Americans, LGBTQ Americans, female Americans, Mexican Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, all get exactly the same amount of liberty and justice.

Freedom of Religion – The First Amendment.

Also known as The Separation of Church and State, It doesn’t mean freedom to Be Christian but not Muslim. It means any religion or no religion. Religion is not established or prohibited in this country. Religion may never be a principle in our laws or our public policies.

Freedom of The Press – First Amendment.

“The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.” – James Madison’s original draft of the First Amendment

Freedom to Protest – First Amendment.

The right of the people peaceably to assemble.

Equal protection and due process of the law. Fourteenth Amendment.

All laws must treat everyone equally, and none of our rights or privileges may be taken away without due process.

When Donald Trump was campaigning, he broke and promised to keep breaking every one of those principles. He promised to treat Muslims differently, he attacked the press in social media and did that again today. He had people thrown out of his rallies for trying to speak, and encouraged his thugs (supporters) to assault them. He belittled the disabled.  He’s attacked people on the basis of gender, disability, race. He’s even attacked our military and our veterans.

I won’t even start on how he thinks about and treats women.

Why is this your fault?

Because when we have any election, whether it’s for president of the US or president of the local sewer district, we owe each other good faith. That means every voter decides according to his or her conscience, based on what they believe – in good faith – is best for the nation or the town. Not according to their personal interests, but in the interests of the community and the future, considering the children. Right?

We’re supposed to find people who have the experience, willingness, and conscience to do good work for everyone, and nominate them to be of service.

And a president is supposed to preside, not rule. He – or she! – is supposed to lead the people, empower their best values and ideas – and continually make the nation better for everyone. Trump just wants to rule. We fought a war 240 years ago to free ourselves from rulers, for God’s sake!

If you vote for someone you know is a threat to the rights of your fellow Americans – even if you believe he’s not a threat to you – are you keeping that faith or breaking it?

If you voted for Trump because he claims to be Christian (he’s not) and you hate Muslims, you broke faith with your nation. Muslim Americans have the same rights you have, and you had a duty to defend those rights when you voted.

If you call yourself a Christian and you voted for Trump and Pence, shame on you! This was no ordinary election and you know it. This was a locomotive of real evil, pulling a long train of hate speech and lies, and you knew it all along. How is that not a sin?

If you voted for Trump and Pence knowing their policies might be a threat to any of your fellow Americans based on their age, sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation, then you broke faith with your neighbors and your nation.

If you were eligible to vote and you just couldn’t be bothered to get up off your fat ass and even mail a ballot, then you broke faith too. In fact, maybe far worse.

If you voted for evil or failed to vote against it, you’ve failed your friends and neighbors, you failed to keep faith with our troops and our veterans, you’ve desecrated our flag and the nation for which it stands.

But we still love you. And when you’re ready to ask for forgiveness, let us know.